The Limit

Functionalism and efficiency

We didn't arrive at the limit by magic. We started with the materials. They were the most expensive back then. Reduce the waste, minimise, collect the scraps and push them back into the cycle. Search for redundancy and eliminate it. Eliminate everything which wasn't absolutely necessary, recycle everything that was. Push for the limit, search for the truth. We didn't show the factory then. That didn't start until we discovered we could refine the process.

You don't see it any more. The liberals took care of that. But for a few years there, I was proud to show people the line, to show them the ballet where people and machines worked in harmony. It brought tears to the eyes, that people could move so precisely, that movement and life could be so efficient, so fluid, so graceful. They didn't see the work that had gone into it, the analysis, the months of design and optimisation. They saw a ritual, a place where beauty arose from order and precision, from a love of process, a passion for efficiency. It wasn't easy to pin the limit. Mathematically it's difficult to pinpoint, or it was, before the new maths.

The beauty of the line arose from the solution, not just the problem. That's what they miss these days. They think they can just move any which way and drill the bolt. Sure, there was a requirement, a task, and the movement of the workers were the result. But there was so much more, the technology, the wonder of the drill, the precision of the die, the power of the press, these were reflected in the movements, the sounds. The dreams of the inventors, the hopes of the workers, the echoes of the training sessions, the truth of capital, the wonder of finance, all of these were part of the symphony.

You could feel the pieces being assembled, you could almost follow it. As the pieces seemed to pull themselves together, each worker pushing them across the stage, adding something you might not even see, until the new product had arisen front stage centre, ready to conquer the world. Everything was beauty, everything was efficiency and grace, power and movement, rhythm and beat, pulse and wave. The people came from miles around. the love was in the air, the emotions were true, the power was genuine.

They killed the theatre because they claimed it was unfair for some of the actors, that by limiting their motion we were harming them, that, by choreographing them we were endangering them, that as time wore on they would no longer be able to act. I say, there were chances for self expression. Every dancer hoped to be recognised for their particular contribution, for recognising some way to better the whole dance. Everyone had a chance to find themselves, to become more, to seek another interpretation which would strip those few precious seconds from the experience, which would make the whole expand to new levels of profit and glory.

The line's still there. But the poetry, the grace, it's gone. How do you love chaos? The workers, they improvise their roles according to their own paltry needs, their wrist hurts, they change the dance, their eyes hurt, they change the dance. What do their wrists or eyes have to do with our product? I'm ashamed to show the factory now. No respect, no love, no fire in the workers, no passion on the stage. They've lost their collective vision and are mired in this narrow liberal idealism which is the antithesis of art and beauty.

We fell from the limit because of politics, conspiracy, and the folly of the workers who didn't recognise of what they were a part, who didn't recognise the power of the line.

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This work is Copyright (c) Mike Fletcher 1997